Sports-Centric Streaming Service Raises $75 million From TV Programmers

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Fubo TV has announced it has closed on a $75 million Series D round, increasing the total amount that the company has raised to $150 million; including a $55 million Series C round in June ’17. The sports-centric digital TV service will use the newly raised capital to expand its engineering and product teams (plans to double staff, open 2nd office by end of ’18), increase its marketing budget and acquire additional content rights. Launched in 2015, the live TV streaming platform has found a niche targeting sports fans (offering 30,000 sporting events/year); surpassing 100,000 subscribers in September 2017. While impressive, the company still lags far behind Sling TV (2.2 million) and DirecTV Now (1.2 million) in terms of market share.

Howie Long-Short: Existing shareholders (and TV programmers) 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Sky (SKYAY) and Scripps Networks Interactive (DISCA) all exercised their pro-rata rights, participating in the latest round; while AMC Networks (AMCX) invested in the company for the first time. While it appears to be an ill fit on the surface, Fubo TV isn’t the only web TV provider that TV programmers have invested in. The Walt Disney Co., pending final approval of its 21st Century Fox acquisition, controls 60% of Hulu; Comcast owns 30% and Time Warner owns 10%. It’s also worth pointing out that A&E, Discovery Communications, AMC and Viacom are invested in Philo.

Fubo TV’s business model is predicated on both recurring monthly subscription fees and ad sales. Despite having just launched “server side ad insertion” in January, ad sales represent a “low single-digit percentage” of total revenue. The company is expecting an overall revenue run rate of $100 million within 12 months.

Fan Marino: Fubo TV’s $45/mo. package, marketed as “a real sports package, for the real sports fan”, contains 85 channels; a collection of local TV networks (think: ABC, CBS, FOX), national cable networks (think: FS1, NFL Network), RSNs (think: MSG, YES, NESN) and difficult to find conference networks (think: Big 10 Network, Pac-12 Network). The bundle includes more sports channels than any other competitor, but lacks the most valuable (to a sports fan) national cable network; ESPN. Is ESPN (and ESPN2) worth the additional +/- $55/mo. required to retain your cable bundle? Probably not, but I’m not signing up for an OTT service without it.

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Thursday Night Darts Hits the Bullseye for BBC America

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Premier League Darts, a marquee television event in the U.K., has found a passionate audience domestically. More than 1.3 million viewers a week are tuning in to watch the competition on BBC America (linear network + online), an audience that rivals more well-established sports programming on ESPNU, FS2, MLB Network, NBA-TV and the NFL Network. BBCA’s success with darts isn’t just relative to rival programming through, the network is outpacing the ratings competitors drew for comparable events. The World Darts Championship was the highest-rated darts tournament on U.S. TV in 10 years, beating coverage on FS1, FS2 and ESPNU.

Howie Long-Short: BBC America is jointly owned by BBC Worldwide (a subsidiary of BBC, a British public service broadcaster and AMC Networks (AMCX). AMCX reported FY17 financials on March 1st, with CEO Josh Sapan touting “record financial results” as both net revenue (+1.8% to a record $2.8 billion) and adjusted operating income (+3% to a record $905 million) increased for the 7th straight year. Newly signed deals with fuboTV and Philo mean that “AMC Networks (is now) available on more virtual MVPDS than any other independent programmer”; a fact that speaks to the quality of their content, with 4 of the Top 10 dramas on cable (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Better Call Saul and Into the Badlands). It needs to be noted that AMCX’s Q4 financials were not nearly as inspiring. Revenue (-1.3% to $606 million) and operating income (-5.2% to $195 million) declined; and the company was forced to write off $38 million in programming assets for “Hells on Wheels”, a show that last filmed in the summer of 2016.

Fan Marino: The 16-week Premiere League competition is nearing its halfway point. April 5th is Judgment Night, when the two bottom players will be sent home; narrowing the field to eight final contenders. The final night is set for May 17th at the O2 Arena in London.

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